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Agitation for secession: What Nigeria needs are true, selfless leaders – Popoola

Femi Popoola, pastor, Divine Mercy Baptist Church, Ikosi Ketu, Lagos, spoke with SEYI JOHN SALAU on the agitation for Biafra and Oduduwa Republic, and what Nigeria needs to do to correct the present political imbalance. Excerpts:

Looking at the Church in the last one year, pre-Covid-19, during the pandemic and post Covid-19; what would you say are the lessons learnt?

Many lessons can be learned as we are learning every day. One of the lessons is the fact that anything can happen at any time – that life can be disrupted by God; we don’t determine how things will work out. We know that before this time around, we have had cases whereby men of God would quote saying, so, so year; this is what will happen and that, but when Covid came, it was not predicted that there was going to be anything like that. So, for me; one of the lessons which I have known any way, before, but it has been reechoed, is that as humans, we are limited and do not determine what happens: events are only determined by God – that is one. The second lesson is the fact that we should learn to know that life is not permanent here; it’s a reminder of the fact that we are accountable to God. As we are living here on earth, we should be mindful of the fact that we are accountable to God. On the part of the government, one of the lessons is that we should always be proactive; we should not allow things to degenerate before we do what is right, so that when the eventuality happens we will not be running helter shelter. We should do whatever we can to make things right before they escalate.

How has leveraging the social media been like, especially during the lockdown and after?

Before that time, many Churches especially Baptist, were not engaging live streaming including myself. But, when Covid came, we were forced to look at what we can do and we started that, and since that time we have not stopped. So, looking at it from that angle we can say that at least, it has helped in exploring that area we had not really seen as an avenue to push the frontiers of the gospel forward. So, it has been positive in that regard because some of the avenues explored then – we have continued with them.

Divine Mercy will be 13 this year; what are you putting in place to deepen conversation within the church and the community you serve?

Yes, by 28 September, this year, we are trusting God that we are going to select and ordain deacons in the church. We have never had people to serve in the office of deacons before, but by the grace of God this year we are trusting God to do that. One of the things we intend to achieve this year – the Lord helping us to achieve it: all our musical equipment have become obsolete and we have been having problem with our sound system- by the grace of God, we are in the process of acquiring new sound system. We are also trying to ensure that we do some things in the area of evangelism; like assisting churches that are coming up in the area of financial support. These are ways we are trusting God to help us to mark our landmark for this year. We don’t celebrate the anniversary every year but some of the things we hope to achieve this year are those things mentioned.

Ordaining deacons speaks to the numeric growth of the church; what other tasks are there for those that will be ordained?

Primarily, the task they will be performing: basically, deacons are pastor’s assistants to help the pastor in carrying out the work of the gospel. They will assist in the pulpit, and they will also assist in visitation. They will assist in the running of the day-to-day activities and management of the church in conjunction with the pastor.

Why do you think the agitation for Biafra, Oduduwa Republic, and other forms of agitations are now gaining more ground than before?

From my own perspective, since I don’t know any of them and have never spoken to any of them, but from what we hear and what we read from the news and from the things that are happening, people are frustrated – people are looking for better times, better life. The present government when they were campaigning, promised ‘Change’ and people were full of hope that the Change they promised would actually be delivered. But, unfortunately, what we are witnessing is not the same thing that was anticipated. And that actually brought about this fresh agitation because people are frustrated and there have not been so much improvement in governance. That has actually aggravated the fresh call for all these Biafra, Oduduwa Republic because people are looking for something that will make their lives better.

Should Nigerians share in the blame considering what has happened in the last six years?

Well, I don’t think I will subscribe to the fact that they did not specify the kind of ‘Change’ they were going to bring about because I remember vividly then that one of the issues they talked about had to do with restructuring and part of it was that oil subsidy was going to be removed. But, till tomorrow now, if am not exaggerating; government is still subsidising oil. So, they have not justified that the citizens didn’t ask what kind of Change? The Change they promised was that things will be made better and they have failed in doing that. So, they should accept the fact that they have actually failed in carrying out the promise they made; nevertheless, that does not justify all the violence that we are recording on a daily basis across the country. Engaging in violence is not a justification for that, but the thing is that people are frustrated because government did not deliver.

Let me take you back to the agitation for Biafra and Oduduwa Republic; do you think Nigeria is better off as a unit?

That is a very important question. For me; from my own perspective, what we need actually is true, selfless leaders. If you break and everybody goes back to their region now: from what we have seen so far, I don’t think what we are witnessing now will still not repeat itself. The truth of the matter is that from the North to the South, to the East, to the West, our leaders are wicked. Those who are ruling us are selfish; and unless this is dealt with – even if we go back to the regions, if the people don’t change their attitude; if the people don’t change their orientation, we will still continue to experience what we are experiencing now. So, it is neither here nor there. It is about a fundamental issue, which has to do with our attitude to life; attitude to things and our value system, and respect for the rule of law. If all of these things will be brought into consideration; if the government will rule according to the constitution – if we have the right constitution in place and then we ensure that people respect the rule of law and people do what is right; I don’t think anybody will be talking about… well, let me go back to my region. After all, America that we are talking about today is made up of different kinds of people and things are going on fine because they stick to the constitution and everybody is made to abide by what is right.

Would you like to see the Church take a more defining role in deepening conversation on the peace across Nigeria?

The Church has actually been taking the front seat. For instance, you are asking me some views as a spiritual leader about things happening and I am expressing my views – that’s part of it, but it’s not limited to that. It is also my responsibility to ensure that the congregants are fed with the word of the Lord to do what is right and to ensure that they don’t cut corners. So, making people to live a life of righteousness is a primary duty that is given to the Church, and it is not biblical that the Church should form a political party; that is not what the Church is called to do. But the Church is to ensure that people do what they are meant to do; and if along the line somebody among the congregants is convinced that yes, God is calling him to lead – maybe, to run for political office, there will be no sin in that. As a Baptist, part of our fundamental doctrine is that the Church is separated from the state, but there are duties that the Church owes the state.

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